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How Many Christian Leaders Really Believe?


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How many priests and pastors really believe what they say? How many teach and preach and then convene together about what a load of crap the church teachings are without their parishioners knowing they really don't believe? What do you think?

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How many priests and pastors really believe what they say? How many teach and preach and then convene together about what a load of crap the church teachings are without their parishioners knowing they really don't believe? What do you think?

 

I think it would be nice if more of them didn't believe, because then we could just vilify them and break the back of the system.

 

Unfortunately, religion is a self-perpetuating monster, and many of those in leadership really do believe exactly what they're preaching.

 

 

 

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I'm convinced that those I've had personal contact with truly do believe their own bullshit, with only one exception. However, I am guessing that there are plenty who don't believe a word of it. I think televangelists, their emulator wannabees and Catholic priests might top the list of non-believing professional religious hucksters. It's probably impossible to get any real statistics.

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I got into teaching the adult bible classes as a believer. I was pretty convinced I believed at the start. Then, I stopped believing, but was still stuck with the teaching. So, I was one of those that taught it and didn't believe it. That's a terrible place to be. Had anyone asked me, I'd have sworn up and down that I believed, even though I didn't.

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I don't know how anyone could do it long term and not effect them. I didn't last a year before I withdrew but maybe some people can do it and not phase them at all. It's the televangelists that I suspect the most of doing this.

 

Other than that, I've met a couple of Catholic priests who basically sounded like secular atheists when talking about Christianity, to them it's not the facts but the message that matters. Whatever that means.

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I wonder about this too. For example what about the likes of Benny Hinn - "faith healers" who cheat and know that they cheat. If you are a true believer you would not feel the need to cheat. Plus you would fear God's punishment if you do. There's a documentary I have found recently about Hinn and it seems initially at least he truly believed. I wonder what he believes now. This is the first part of that documentary:

 

 

 

 

 

I also wonder how many leaders of my ex-church believe. I had the impression they do, but then they are also greedy and have a lot of love for money and power. This whole stuff gives them a VERY good life. So are they in it for this or do they truly believe? Or both? And then they rationalize their greed for themselves somehow? I don't know.

 

I agree about Catholic priests. My granddad talked to one who basically admitted to him he was an atheist....

 

 

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Benny Hinn is a charlatan and I remember seeing him on TBN and waning folk "do not touch mine anointed..." when folk started exposing him on YouTube and listing the failures of his "healings"

 

He really got to a stage where he thought he was untouchable and now that his wife left him, I wonder what message he is now spouting?

 

These televangelists all seem to fail somewhere along the line and folk do appear to be waking up to their lies.

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Some clergy have really read/studied/understood the bible more than others, and there are the rationalizations they no doubt use, as other xians who examine their religion to any degree must do. I think that not all believe, but I could not even fathom a guess at the percentage.

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I think televangelists, their emulator wannabees and Catholic priests might top the list of non-believing professional religious hucksters.

Florduh, I understand the televangelists, but why Catholic priests? There are other mainstream variants of xianity (e.g., methodists, etc?) that are not fully biblical literalists/inerrants, and many catholics, probably priests included, are pretty good at ignoring other of their own special absurdities that they are expected to believe, such as transubstantiation. It's not apparent to me why catholic priests would be any more or less likely to believe their own nonsense than some of the other clergy, so I'm curious about whether you have any special reason for thinking so.

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Looking back, I would say that at least two of our former Pastors were marginal at best. Context is northeastern middle of the road Presbyterian. One interim Pastor was outspoken in his liberal beliefs and they bordered on heretical, as in ‘anybody can go to heaven even an atheist”. But most liked him because he was a big teddy bear. I really suspected one of the senior pastors because when you looked at his lifestyle, it was really good. He was very frequently not around, loads of golf, no office hours, big man about town. House provided for, equity sharing, vacations, study leave, sabbaticals. When you look at the total package, not a bad gig and very easy to fake. Thinking back on his sermons, I now think he did not believe it.

 

 

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It's not apparent to me why catholic priests would be any more or less likely to believe their own nonsense than some of the other clergy

I have nothing to base that on, of course. I just see the "Catholic Industry" with their hierarchy, traditions, rituals and robes as a viable business even without the god stuff. The priesthood is a good, steady job for many and there is often family pressure to go into the business.

 

That's just how I reason it :shrug:

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Would be amazing to know the truth of this but could we expect honesty from these people? Who have their entire personas and livelihood invested in perpetuating the perception that they are indeed believers?

 

Daniel Dennett did a study of a handful of non-believing preachers. Google it, it's readily available.

 

I know a few agnostic ministers. Actually I have a feeling I know quite a few agnostic ministers, but there are just a few with whom I have a close enough relationship that either of us are comfortable enough to discuss this subject candidly.

 

BTW churches are full of non-believers, on both sides of the altar.

 

This is interesting reading on a related subject: When in Doubt, Shout!

http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2010/10/12/0956797610385953.short?rss=1&ssource=mfc

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As I said, I do not have a good feel for just how widespread (or not) non-belief among the clergy is, but the thing that haunts me about the idea of it being widespread is that they know what their religion does. They know about the inquisitions, the holy wars. They know that their religion provides the framework that inspires people to fly into buildings and gun down abortion doctors. They know that slavery was justified and defended from the bible. They know that gays are persecuted today because of their religion. They know that innocent people have been burned as "witches" in the past and in fact that these sorts of things still occur in certain pockets of the world. They know the problems of how overpopulation and the proliferation of HIV are being exacerbated thanks to the policies of the church. They know how their religion has impeded the progress of science and stood in the way of inquiry that would actually solve problems and promote the public good, and they know how dysfunctional it has made the lives of many believers as well as society at large. It's all very sinister.

 

The handful of clergy that I know about that ultimately left the pulpit and joined the ranks of the unbelievers I respect and admire, but the idea of knowing all of the above things, yet making a career out of being a priest or minister and just not caring really kind of turns my stomach.

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I think most of them believe but have doubts about it. They've probably converted to many people and are to afraid of what would happen to them if they let themselves begin to question their faith.

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I wonder about this too. For example what about the likes of Benny Hinn - "faith healers" who cheat and know that they cheat. If you are a true believer you would not feel the need to cheat. Plus you would fear God's punishment if you do. There's a documentary I have found recently about Hinn and it seems initially at least he truly believed. I wonder what he believes now. This is the first part of that documentary:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just wanted to throw in there that I watched these 5 parts of Binny Hinn.:woopsie: I can't believe today that I actually supported this man. I watched him every Sunday I could.

When I think now, how I used to lay my hands on the TV with him in prayer.......:Doh: (then I always had to windex the TV, so nobody would see my hand prints!!:shrug:

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The Catholics/ liberal Protestant clergy who lose faith won't admit it, just re-explain it to themselves in highbrow terms. "I now believe in it as spiritual truth if not necasarily literal truth" "I believe in it as a beautiful metaphorical truth"

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I wonder about this too. For example what about the likes of Benny Hinn - "faith healers" who cheat and know that they cheat. If you are a true believer you would not feel the need to cheat. Plus you would fear God's punishment if you do. There's a documentary I have found recently about Hinn and it seems initially at least he truly believed. I wonder what he believes now. This is the first part of that documentary:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just wanted to throw in there that I watched these 5 parts of Binny Hinn.:woopsie: I can't believe today that I actually supported this man. I watched him every Sunday I could.

When I think now, how I used to lay my hands on the TV with him in prayer.......:Doh: (then I always had to windex the TV, so nobody would see my hand prints!!:shrug:

 

I know Margee. I supported him as well. I read a book by him too about the Holy Spook.

 

Having said that I only supported him because my church did. Instinctively I always had a bad feeling about him, there were always thoughts coming up about how fake he sounds, but I repressed those thoughts and I felt guilt for Satan putting such thoughts in my mind about such a holy man of God. :Doh: But then this was the same with the whole Christianity. There were always thoughts in me those were protesting instinctively, but I repressed them.

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I got into teaching the adult bible classes as a believer. I was pretty convinced I believed at the start. Then, I stopped believing, but was still stuck with the teaching. So, I was one of those that taught it and didn't believe it. That's a terrible place to be. Had anyone asked me, I'd have sworn up and down that I believed, even though I didn't.

I think this illustrates that there's a certain amount of schizophrenic disassociation going on in the minds of many Christians, whether clergy or laity. Many of us here have testified that in retrospect we realize we didn't buy much of what we thought we did, but we felt we were supposed to. I noticed that chronic intestinal cramps I had all my life, since I was a kid, around church activities never bothered me since I quit attending them, and that tells me something about my own suppressed internal conflicts.

 

I don't think (dis)belief is binary. I think a lot of clergy and teachers are 10, 20, 30, 40 percent doubtful and conflicted. Some of the most strident and seemingly ardent ones may be 90% conflicted and frantically holding on to the last 10 percent. Just as some of the most homophobic ones probably are fighting homosexual tendencies within themselves, the most virulent Christians probably are fighting strong temptations to be unbelievers or wild children.

 

I'm put in mind of my late wife's aunt, who is the most upright pillar of the Methodist church you can imagine, married the most boring husband conceivable, and sure enough, as a girl she had fantasies of being a dancing girl in a chorus line, and her mother left her father for just that purpose herself. In order to make sure she never did that, to fulfill an identity as not-my-mother that she felt was incumbent upon her, she constructed a life that's the exact polar opposite of what she really wanted. Oh, and she has such severe TMJ that by the time she was 65, her jaw joints had to be replaced with artificial ones.

 

We all pay a price for not being who we really are.

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We all pay a price for not being who we really are.

 

 

This is the conclusion I've come to lately, and I'm trying my damnedest to do something about it. It's not easy, but just moving in a positive direction for a change (rather than just spinning my wheels) has been a major energizer. I feel more in control or something. Since I posted my rant on the main blog (http://new.exchristian.net/2011/06/believing-in-belief.html), and this post you've quoted here, I've taken the first steps to withdrawing from teaching completely and also in telling my family how I really feel and believe. That war's just getting started, but it's soooo much better than pretending to be someone else, and I'm committed to being as true as I can be to who I really am in both the immediate and long term future. Your post was very insightful and thoughtful, and I appreciate it.

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We all pay a price for not being who we really are.

Your post was very insightful and thoughtful, and I appreciate it.

I'm happy to hear that Monk. It takes courage to do what you're embarking on. But in the long run it's best. That same aunt I mentioned has a daughter, and she's wound tight as a drum too. Curiously her jaw is fine -- what she had to do was have surgery on her rectum to force it to let go better! You can't make this stuff up ... it's not always so obvious and even poetic, but I think hiding and going along to get along just ends up killing you, one way or the other, sooner or later.

 

I'm having to think seriously about some aspects of my own life, too, and whether I can live with them for the long haul -- not religious or philosophical mendacity in my case, but asking myself how much I'm willing to put up with of Other People's Drama in order to coexist with them. Some days I don't know why we have such a hard time being ourselves ... fear of change, of being alone, being misunderstood or unjustly accused, things like that, I guess. One grows tired of not being oneself, but tired of the strife and pushback and, sometimes, loss involved in being oneself, too. At those times when you're tempted to compromise, be forgiving towards yourself; it's not like any of this is a slam-dunk at all times. If it were, it wouldn't have gone on so long -- I would have left the church very quickly instead of gradually, and you wouldn't still be teaching, etc.

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We all pay a price for not being who we really are.

Your post was very insightful and thoughtful, and I appreciate it.

I'm happy to hear that Monk. It takes courage to do what you're embarking on. But in the long run it's best. That same aunt I mentioned has a daughter, and she's wound tight as a drum too. Curiously her jaw is fine -- what she had to do was have surgery on her rectum to force it to let go better! You can't make this stuff up ... it's not always so obvious and even poetic, but I think hiding and going along to get along just ends up killing you, one way or the other, sooner or later.

 

I'm having to think seriously about some aspects of my own life, too, and whether I can live with them for the long haul -- not religious or philosophical mendacity in my case, but asking myself how much I'm willing to put up with of Other People's Drama in order to coexist with them. Some days I don't know why we have such a hard time being ourselves ... fear of change, of being alone, being misunderstood or unjustly accused, things like that, I guess. One grows tired of not being oneself, but tired of the strife and pushback and, sometimes, loss involved in being oneself, too. At those times when you're tempted to compromise, be forgiving towards yourself; it's not like any of this is a slam-dunk at all times. If it were, it wouldn't have gone on so long -- I would have left the church very quickly instead of gradually, and you wouldn't still be teaching, etc.

 

 

Good luck with that! If growth were easy, I don't suppose we'd be having this conversation :). Hope you find what works best.

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Shackled,

 

With the catholic priests, from what I understand they are trained in philosphy and other forms of crtitcal thinking. So they generally are very aware how screwed up the bible is. What they then latch on to seems to be the golden rule, and love one another, and all that.

 

Many also have some training in consueling and so they generally are more educated then your normal protestant preacher with a masters in divinity.

 

At least that has been my understanding. If you watch Letting Go of God by Julia Sweeny, then you'll see some of that when she talks about a year long bible study she did with her priest where they read the bible cover to cover.

 

stryper.

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What about Karen Armstrong. She is a former nun and theology expert who now writes books on the real roots of religion and just "has respect for the idea of God" and "Believes in belief".

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We had a pastor for about 4 years. He would say things that led me to believe he didn't take the bible literally. We were southern baptist so...

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We had a pastor for about 4 years. He would say things that led me to believe he didn't take the bible literally. We were southern baptist so...

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